9:50 am Jan. 7, 2011
Unlike Spoonbill & Sugartown, North Brooklyn's other independent bookstore, the place called WORD is a hike from the L train stop at Bedford Avenue and North 7th Street, the beating heart of Williamsburg. It's in a quiet corner of Greenpoint among furniture stores and small restaurants. The clientele is strictly local.
Older, more settled; not so many girls teetering on booties or bearded guys in giant headphones picking through the stacks as hip mothers and work-at-home dads. Top-shelf fiction and the children's corner (strewn with toys and puzzles) dominate here rather than obscure art books and loudish music.
WORD is carefully curated with books that you can't miss if you and the people you buy gifts for belong to a certain literary, Sunday Times-reading set. It's no surprise that the books that top WORD's bestseller list for December are a mix of high-minded pop culture and serious literary efforts.
Recent memoirs from the king and queen of aging rock dominate the top of the list, with Patti Smith's Just Kids (No. 1) and Keith Richards' Life (No. 4). The couples we imagine frequenting WORD likely read them together in bed, his and hers style, over brunch.
While we’re on brunch, these couples, intense foodie types, of course, obsess over their Sunday breakfast and Friday dinner party menus. (They probably have decent-size kitchens, with working ovens, even. Maybe a full grill on the patio.)
One of those couples would be Melissa and Brendan Vaughn, the husband and wife duo who assembled the No. 3 book on the list, The New Brooklyn Cookbook. It was named one of New York’s "Best NYC Cookbooks of 2010," which WORD browsers probably saw in the print edition, the subscription cards to which falling from the battered copy pulled from the bathroom's wicker basket. The book includes recipes from a discerning foodie’s favorite brunch spots in the neighborhood: DuMont right outside the Metropolitan Avenue L stop; Marlow & Sons under the Williamsburg Bridge; fried-chicken-delicacy spot Egg on North 5th Street; and Five Leaves, the nautical outpost on Bedford Avenue originally drafted by Heath Ledger.
As for the dinner party, The Frankie's Spuntino Kitchen Companion & Cooking Manual (No. 7) would be the perfect guide. All the famous menu dishes from Frankie's Spuntino—the Carroll Gardens brick-walled restaurant that has perfected Italian American comfort food for the foodie set—are here: from Cremini Mushroom and Truffle Oil Crostini to Cavatelli with Hot Sausage & Browned Butter.
Their dream guest list for dinner might include some of the modern literary and pop-culture heroes (living for dead) who will always have a home on a bestseller list at WORD. Like siblings Amy Sedaris, the queen of weird and wonderful domesticity, with Simple Times: Crafts for Poor People (No. 6) and David Sedaris with Squirrel Seeks Chimpmunk: A Modest Bestiary (No. 5). And, for the late guest, Mark Twain, whose autobiography (No. 8) was mostly recited to a stenographer during the four years before he died in 1910. According to the Times, “he argued that speaking his recollections and opinions, rather than writing them down, allowed him to adopt a more natural, colloquial and frank tone, and Twain scholars who have seen the manuscript agree.” Twain, unfiltered more than ever, at the dinner table. We imagine some bickering over placecards.
All My Friends are Dead by Avery Monsen and Jory John (No. 9) and Children Make Terrible Pets by Peter Brown (No. 10) are the kind of books you’d wrap up and label for a toddler, but would really be a gift for two hip parents. All My Friends Are Dead is a morbid "children's book for adults" with illustrations of people and things like dinosaurs, pirates, dodos, expiring milk and cassettes. The first 10 pages were made into an animated gif that has been endlessly reblogged on Tumblr. Children Make Terrible Pets is about a girly bear in a tutu who finds a young boy and wants to keep him like a puppy. The book made the Times’ 2010 gift guide, as one of the Best Illustrated Children’s Books, so it’s likely that WORD patrons read about it there.
As for No. 2, Patton Oswalt, he just put out a memoir, Zombie Spaceship Wasteland, and is speaking at a WORD-sponsored event at Warsaw in Greenpoint on Jan. 8. Events like these are part of WORD’s business plan: keep the locals occupied with fun events and create a community around the books. Bring a smart, self-deprecating, literary comedian to Brooklyn and you’ll probably sell a lot of tickets. WORD seems to have succeeded here.
The Greenpoint couples will be there if they can get sitters, and they’ll hold hands as they walk there, according to the Brooklyn idyll WORD encapsulates.
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